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15.04.2015, 13:16
Vestergaard: "I'm not a dictator"
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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: Jakob Vestergaard, Germany’s new women’s head coach talks about the way he wants to develop his team and also his favourites for the 2015 MVM EHF FINAL4 in Budapest
 

Vestergaard: "I'm not a dictator"

Denmark, Australia, Romania and now Germany – being just 40 years of age Jakob Vestergaard has had various jobs in handball already.

Coaching positions at Danish powerhouses Viborg HK, FC Midtjylland and Aalborg, the Romanian club Oltchim Valcea and the Australian women's national team as well as being the youth coordinator at Viborg and sports director at CSM Bucuresti are just a brief abstract of his CV.

Since February, Vestergaard has taken over a new role, as he succeeded his fellow Dane Heine Jensen as new head coach of the German women’s national team.

In this Interview of the Week with www.eurohandball.com, Vestergaard explains his coaching philosophy, talks about the first weeks in his new job and the key role of his assistant Grit Jurack.

He also gives his prediction for the 2015 MVM EHF FINAL4 in Budapest, where his former players Anja Althaus, Cristina Neagu, Amandine Leynaud and Katarina Bulatovic will fight for Europe's most important title in club handball.

eurohandball.com: You were part of three Women’s EHF Champions League semi-finals and won the trophy twice with Viborg – what are your predictions for the MVM EHF FINAL4 in Budapest where Vardar vs Buducnost and Larvik vs Dinamo face each other?

Jakob Vestergaard: There will be great matches in Budapest. My personal favourites for reaching the final are Buducnost and Larvik, which would mean that two undefeated teams fight for the trophy.

But Vardar have proven what they are capable of by eliminating the defending champions Györ. Buducnost - though - have the advantage of playing together for one year longer, while Jan Pytlick and some players are new at Vardar. This semi-final will be the closer one.

Larvik are the world’s best team in counter attacks, and this might decide the match against Dinamo.

eurohandball.com: From the EHF Champions League to the German national team: At the Carpat Trophy in March you got to know your new team. What is your first impression?

Jakob Vestergaard: After only six training sessions and two matches, it is too early for a fully detailed answer. I’ve learned a lot about the team and the players. We saw a lot what will be useful for our future tasks, mainly in terms of physical condition and team spirit.

It is like building a new house: You start with the foundation. If it is solid, you can build a stable house on top. In an ideal world the house is not only stable and comfortable but looks very nice too, maybe with some flowers in the windows.

eurohandball.com: What is your coaching philosophy?

Jakob Vestergaard: The players have to take on responsibility, but need their freedom at the same time. We do not work with robots, but with human beings. So it is a matter of respect for and from both sides. I set the goals, but the players are part of the process how to reach those targets. I'm not a dictator, players should respect, but not fear me.

eurohandball.com: It sounds like the complete opposite of Evgeny Trefilov, the coach of the Russian team, which you will meet in the play-offs for the 2015 World Championship?

Jakob Vestergaard: This is black and white, yes! But: He is and was highly successful with the way he worked, he won so many medals and titles. There is not just one way of coaching a team. I have full respect for him and his work. Every coach should train the way he wants to.

eurohandball.com: What is your ideal of tactics for the future – the classic Scandinavian way with a solid defence and counter attacks?

Jakob Vestergaard: You cannot just impose a tactical concept on a team, you first have to analyse the players and their strengths. The German team can count on physically strong players, so it makes no sense just to rely on counter-attacks. We want to play fast, but we have a lot of talent in shooting from nine or more metres, too.

eurohandball.com: Which deficits have you found in the team?

Jakob Vestergaard: I noticed a huge number of details we must work on. For example: Why is a player doing better in the national team than in her club? – this is good for me, but the opposite is more interesting: Why does a player have a higher level in club matches compared to her performances in the national team?

How does a player fit in different concepts of defending and attacking…and, and, and. I'm just collecting hundreds of pieces to complete my puzzle.

eurohandball.com: This sounds like you are a very analytical coach….

Jakob Vestergaard: Definitely! I really emphasise working with analyses, because it helps the players to understand how they can improve and then it is much easier to internalise tactics.

eurohandball.com: Your contract expires after the World Championship 2017 in Germany. Do you already have the long-term development of the team in mind?

Jakob Vestergaard: Of course I'm involved in our activities with the youth and junior team, but  - to be honest  - until June I only focus on Russia, our opponents in the World Championship 2015 Play-offs. Every training session, every test match is just about Russia.

eurohandball.com: This is qualification number one, but since last week you also know the German opponents (France, Iceland, Switzerland) on the way to the EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden – tough nuts to crack or an easy-going walk?

Jakob Vestergaard: The draw was OK for us. France are top opponents, Iceland and Switzerland were the toughest possible teams from the pots 3 and 4.

I expect two close matches against France. I hope to win our home match, in France anything can happen. Iceland are growing and improving year by year, so we have to be aware of that. Against Switzerland we are the favourites.

eurohandball.com: Have you been contacted by the German Federation or did you apply for the job?

Jakob Vestergaard: When I heard that Heine Jensen is no longer the German national team coach, I contacted my former player Grit Jurack, if she would like to be my assistant, if I get the job. When she agreed, she paved my way to the federation and then I applied for the job by sending my CV and my concept. After some phone calls and meetings I got the job.

eurohandball.com: Were surprised when you were chosen?

Jakob Vestergaard: When I got the offer to take over this team I didn't have to think twice. A dream came true to take over a top team with a World Championship on home court in sight.

eurohandball.com: More and more Danish coaches take over national teams all over the world, such as in Poland, Brazil and Sweden. Is being a Danish coach a current quality standard?

Jakob Vestergaard (laughs): I'm already afraid of the vast number of Danish coaches all around…But all of those coaches are completely different.
The coaches' education system in Denmark works well and you become a coach much earlier than in other countries. But like in every other country you have good and bad coaches in Denmark.

eurohandball.com: And all those coaches are famous for spreading this typical Scandinavian winners‘ mentality among their players…

Jakob Vestergaard: I always prefer positive thinking, but I don’t know if this is typical for Scandinavians. 


TEXT: Björn Pazen / me / ts
 
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